Sunday 1 August 2021

Why are modern people so indifferent to resurrection and eternal life?

Why are modern people so indifferent to resurrection and eternal life? Because they are all-but indifferent to the question of whether they might live eternally, and in great joy. Such indifference to life beyond death is (in world-historical terms) quite extraordinary, and invites explanation. 

But I know exactly the answer - from my own experience as an atheist through my childhood, youth and early adulthood. Men are indifferent to resurrection because eternal resurrected life is understood to be merely an endless continuation of mortal life - and mortal life is experienced as intrinsically purposeless, meaningless and disconnected

So deep is this experience of 'alienation' - of being a random thing in a material-causal world going nowhere; of 'it all' meaning nothing; of our-selves as merely transient patterns of information... So deep it is, that it constitutes far more than just a 'belief': This is the assumption and basis of our thinking and reasoning (our metaphysical understanding of reality), and therefore alienation is all-but inescapable. 

Modern Man thinks meaninglessness, purposelessness and alienation. It is not a conclusion from life experience, but the very texture of his inner experience, as it bounces back-and-forth between his mind and the world of public discourse, each resonating with the other.   

Modern Man therefore assumes that eternal resurrected life would be, must be, as arbitrary and futile as our mortal life - only it would be inescapable. Consequently, the usual 'hope' of modern man is for annihilation - nothingness; an end to suffering and the possibility of suffering; destruction of being (or, at least, of the conscious self). 

This is probably why modern Man is 'immune' to the core Christian teaching, as described in the Fourth Gospel - where it is made clear that Jesus came to bring Man eternal resurrected life in Heaven. 

That is the essence of Christianity - and when this essence has become incomprehensible, or is being understood only in reductionist, this-worldly and reduced terms - then Jesus is misunderstood by false and restricted concepts; concepts un-consciously derived from the assumption of our incoherent and hope-less modern mortal experience.  


JWM said...

I think about this frequently. It reminds of the "Rainbow Bridge" story. Short version, and spoiler: Our pets go to heaven, and they are the very first to greet us when we arrive there.
It’s a sappy, and sentimental little story that never fails to put a lump in your throat.
But the little story does touch on something profound. We cannot really conceive of heaven except in terms of life here on earth. The thought of being re-united with those we’ve lost gets more and more poignant as we begin to feel the hard truth of our own mortality. And the heaven we conceive is always something less than earth. It’s always : “Just like this, only without _____.”
The more we try to imagine what heaven would actually be, the more the idea dissolves in paradox, and contradiction. If we're immortal, do we eat? Are there days and nights, seasons and years, hence time? What is the square root of infinity? We simply cannot know, can't wrap our minds around the concept. So we go to the default. It's just like this, only without...


ted said...

Modern man is also highly psychological and his main focus is his own personal happiness. He does see himself part of a cosmic drama with supernatural implications. Instead, his focus is mostly inward without any upward and outward.

Ann K. said...

This is something I have pondered as well, and I agree with you.

I also think this is why modern man is disinclined to embrace God the Father—because their earthly family ties are dysfunctional.

Bruce Charlton said...

My own experience of being an atheist reacting to Christianity's offer of eternal life was that it failed to solve any of the problems of living - just kicked the can further down the road. I also had a very 'static' idea of Heaven, as merely extended blissful existence, with nothing to 'do'.

For me, it was important to learn of the Mormon idea of Heaven - which had an immediate appeal; and to recognize gradually that this also *implied* not only eternal development towards divine pro-creation - but also participation in all aspects of divine creation. (Owen Barfield was very helpful in this.)

Thus each resurrected Man is bringing something unique, personal and distinctive - however small - to the totality of ongoing creation.

At last, I could understand what would be worth doing, and eternally interesting, throughout a life everlasting!

whitney said...

Martin Luther had terrible parents. Hated his father

Bruce Charlton said...

@W - ?

Pilgrim said...

So well put, and so apropos to the time we live in.

captOBV said...

"Modern Man thinks meaninglessness, purposelessness and alienation. It is not a conclusion from life experience"

How do you justify the statement "It is not a conclusion from life experience"? It certainly is. Even if you think of the purpose of life as building up an institution like a church, in the end its futile as you see how quickly those crumble. Life is meaningless. The only possible meaning is (1) to avoid damnation, if Christianity is true, or (2) to get out of this world and never come back, if Buddhism is true. Those are the only possible points, and there is not much point to either one honestly. If one were asked prior to lige it they wanted to go through such nonsense, surely they would say no. Now you bring in your mormon (3) to become a god and get your own planet. So the point of life is for you to learn how to impose this pointless on an entire planet? That seems even more pointless to me. And it seems like learning to learn nothing.

Bruce Charlton said...

@cO - This mortal life when assumed to be the only thing and ending in annihilation - is indeed meaningless; as was recognized at least as far back as the ancient Greeks. But until the modern era, most Men were not capable of regarding mortal life as the only thing. Because Men were naturally spiritual, and had experience of the divine, and knowledge of life beyond death (ie. the state of Original Participation).

Modern Man is different, although we are born and as young children were much like ancient Man. But we lose our spontaneous and inborn experience of the spiritual as we develop and grow - usually around adolescence Modern Men (at least in the West) develop a detached consciousness. The divine intention is that from this detached and free state we may *choose* again to believe that which we once believed unconsciously and without choice (Final Participation).

Life experience as such tells us absolutely nothing - it is by our interpretation and understanding of experience that we draw conclusions. Science is an analogy for this - there is no evidence, no facts - do do not even know what to observe - until a scientific theory tells us how to segment the world; and what counts as evidence and fact. If there are no theories, no assumptions, then the world is an undifferentiated buzz and Men are not even distinct from it. Theory always comes first.

Ancient Man lived by 'inbuilt' and spontaneous theory, but Modern Man chooses his theories, his assumptions. By choosing materialist, atheist assumptions we now make our world necessarily meaningless.

But if we regard these mainstream Modern assumptions as false (which is why they are incoherent, maladaptive, insane-producing) then we can choose - or re-choose - the assumptions that we were born with, that probably we had in early childhood. And then the world makes sense, we again perceive purpose - and recognize our own membership of it.

Lucinda said...

"it bounces back-and-forth between his mind and the world of public discourse, each resonating with the other"

I think a big part of modern man's problem is his faith in language and communication. We assume that with enough precision, we can capture truth by force, without the need of what you call direct knowing (by spiritual means). A corollary is that anything we cannot express with language doesn't matter.

But it's actually pretty obvious that communicating about the most important experiences relies exclusively on shared meaning brought to the exchange. A loving parent cannot really talk meaningfully about his children with someone who is not a loving parent, no matter how well he uses the language. At best he may draw an analogy in some area where the two do have shared meaning.

But reliance on communication/media in relationships is hellish. I think this is one of the lessons of internet social media. It makes life, especially eternal life, undesirable.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Lucinda - "this is one of the lessons of internet social media. It makes life, especially eternal life, undesirable."

I agree. Deliberately so, indeed.